Help! My Dog’s Ear Tips Are Bleeding

Updated November 28, 2020

The picture above shows an ear problem in Adelaide that’s also found around the world. It only affects the margins and tips of the ears. The most common cause will surprise you.

Causes Of Ear Tip Scabs & Crusts

There are at least four reasons why a dog can have sores on the ear margin:

  • Damage caused by scratching or shaking due to an ear infection
  • Infestation with sarcoptic mange mites (‘fox mange’)
  • Other skin problems such as allergy
  • Attack by blood-sucking insects

Ear Infections commonly lead to damage to the ear. However, it’s unusual that only the ear tip will be involved. Therefore, turn over the ear and inspect the ear canal. It should be red, swollen or dirty looking with a musty odour. Don’t forget to check the other ear as many problems are bilateral.

Sarcoptic Mange is quite hard to diagnose, but dogs are extremely itchy when you touch the ear edge. They are also itchy elsewhere, especially the elbows and the belly. If you’re using one of the products that treat and prevent Sarcoptes mites it’s very unlikely.

Other Skin Problems are extremely common, but once again there should be other areas affected like the belly, feet and under the tail.

Fly Bite Dermatitis is the most common cause of ear margin problems in dogs.

What Is Fly Bite Dermatitis?

ear bleeding sore

Blood-sucking flies prefer to target the edges of the ears of dogs. When dogs live in areas with these insects, repeated irritation causes crusts and scabs to form at the site of the bites.

Dogs then scratch or shake their heads and damage the area further, until it starts bleeding. Then it gets infected, making matters even worse. Eventually, you end up with a raw ear tip wound like in the picture.

This causes the dog to shake their head, propelling the ear tips at high speed against the side of the head. It’s not unusual to have sprays of blood right up your walls.

But I Don’t See Any Flies!

Flies come biting mostly after dusk so this problem mainly affects dogs that sleep outside. Owners rarely see the flies, which are often parasites of other animals such as horses.  If your dog sleeps inside, you should reconsider the other possible causes above.

Treatment of Fly Bite Dermatitis

You have two choices:

  1. Let your dog stay inside
  2. Use an insect repellent on the ears each afternoon (I find Muscaban® works best)

If you don’t act, the wounds tend to get bigger and even can cause permanent defects in the ear margin. Head shaking also often leads to the development of aural haematomas.

Treatment of Bleeding Ear Tips

Infected, painful ear tip wounds often cause more head shaking and damage in a vicious circle. Here are my recommendations to tackle this frustrating situation:

  • Treat the underlying condition
  • Use antibiotics to reduce secondary infection
  • Use anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and swelling
  • Use light dressings (heavy ones only make dogs shake more)

I have learnt over the years to use a very lightweight plastic adhesive strip (Band-Aid®) to cover the wounds. This prevents further trauma from head shaking, is very easy to apply, and is usually tolerated by dogs. These need to be changed daily and are only for temporary use after advice from your vet.

That, of course, is the final and most important point. Don’t go it alone; your vet will have much better advice based on your particular dog and their environment.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.


15 Replies to “Help! My Dog’s Ear Tips Are Bleeding”

  1. thanks. My daschound has fly bites on tips of ears, one worse than the other. im going to try the paper bandaids to cover. Ive got them to heal before buts its back. He also is aninside dog so imagine this occurs when dozing outside during the day.

  2. Side note..whoever took this photo, should be check for melanoma with the nail marking, it’s quite common in melanoma. . Unless this is a known bruising.

    1. Hi Cole. Thanks for the concern. It was actually an old dog bite which bled under the nail and has now grown out. Occupational hazard!

    1. Hi Carl. If the hardening is being caused by dried blood or scabs, you can gently soak it off with diluted chlorhexidine or betadine scrub, but to prevent it happening you’ll need your vet’s help.

  3. Don’t know how I didn’t realize this was probably from fly bite. My dog is inside dog but spends hours outside on weekend right before I got to work at night (to get all her pottying) out of her system before being left indoors alone for the night. Haven’t considered flies might attack her ears!!! I could KICK myself! Her wound looks almost exactly like that picture and I thought it was an HPV wound but the vet didn’t seem concerned about it.She got a bath after the vet visit and it looks better already. I’ve had dogs with fly bites before, that were full-time outside in the summer, but thi dog is an inside dog so I didn’t know what that was on her ear. Well now that I know, I know what to do

  4. You can try Vicks or similar ointment, my dog ears it heals the wound and keep stay away the from flies.

    1. Hi Howard. The trick is that they should be lightweight but still stick to the ears (the adhesive needs to be nowhere near the area needing protection – they’re only to stop small things getting big)

  5. Hi! My dogs ear flaps are bleeding with open wounds. Possibly flies are stinging them. Very hot and humid conditions. How can I treat them. It’s also cracking open. His in pain when he shakes his head. How can I treat them at home. What may be the possible reason? Should I use the regal brand for skin infections drops?

  6. Hi on the tips of my dogs ears are crusty blood scabs or something . It doesn’t look like bugs but he is always shaking

    1. Insect bite is the most likely cause, but you almost never see the insects. Of course there can be other options too so a vet visit is recommended.

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